United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States District Judge.
James Chealham, who is currently incarcerated at the Fishkill
Correctional Facility and is proceeding pro se,
filed the instant action on April 13, 2018, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims regarding the conditions
of his confinement on Rikers Island. In an Order entered on
April 2, 2019, this Court granted Cheatham's request to
proceed in forma pauper is and dismissed the
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. Cheatham was also granted leave to file an
amended complaint - and did so on September 9, 2019. For the
reasons below, Plaintiffs amended complaint is dismissed and
plaintiff is granted 30 days' leave to file a second
original complaint was filed on April 13, 2018, against the
City of New York ("the City"), the State of New
York, the New York City Department of Correction, as well as
other defendants. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1).) The complaint
alleged, among other things, that the Anna M Kross Center on
Rikers Island was a "slave complex" and that the
conditions of Cheatham's confinement in that facility
violated the constitution. (Compl. at 5-6.) This Court
dismissed Cheatham's complaint for failure to state a
claim. (Order of 4/2/2019 (Doc. No. 7).) The Court granted
Cheatham leave to amend his complaint in order to properly
plead a claim regarding the conditions of his confinement.
(Id. at 8-9.) Cheatham was instructed that, in order
to state a claim against the City of New York, he would have
plead facts showing a City policy or custom caused his
injury. (Id. at 5-6.) Cheatham was also instructed
that, if he named individual defendants, he needed to name
"those individuals who have some personal involvement in
the action he alleges, ” or at the very least
"identify each of them as Correction Officer John or
Jane Doe, and to the best of his ability describe each
individual." (Order of 4/2/2019 at 8-9.)
filed the instant amended complaint on September 9, 2019,
naming only the City of New York as a defendant. (Am. Compl.
(Doc. No. 13) at 2.) Cheatham's amended complaint alleges
that from February 20, 2018, until September 1, 2018, while
detained at the Anna M. Kross Center on Bikers Island, he was
held in living conditions that were "inhumane."
(Am. Compl. at 4.) Cheatham points to "the abundance of
Rodents and Roaches," showers which lacked privacy and
were "overcome by mold," the provision of
"tattered clothing which didn't fit," medical
care "at the bare minimum," food that did not meet
"the standards of the Food and Drug
Administration," and a generally low "level of
safety." (Id. at 4-5.) Cheatham does not
identify a specific policy or custom of the City of New York,
but quotes language from the Supreme Court's decision in
Farmer v. Brennan, discussing prison officials'
duty under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution to
"ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing,
shelter, and medical care, and [to] 'take reasonable
measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'"
511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994) (quoting Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). Cheatham states
that these conditions violated his rights under the Fifth,
Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United Stales
Constitution. (Am. Compl. at 6.) Cheatham seeks
"Monetary, Decla[ra]tory, and Injunctive relief in the
sum of $3, 000, 000." (Id.)
Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a district court to
screen a civil complaint brought by a prisoner against a
governmental entity or its agents and to dismiss the
complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint
is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. §
state a claim, a complaint must plead "enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Matson v. Bd. of Educ., 631 F.3d 57,
63 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Although all allegations contained in
the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is
"inapplicable to legal conclusions."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In reviewing a pro
se complaint, the court must be mindful that a
plaintiffs pleadings should be held "to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per
curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
104-105 (1976)); see also Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d
66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (noting that even after
Twombly, the court "remain[s] obligated to
construe a pro se complaint liberally").
Municipal Liability Under § 1983
bring a § 1983 action against a municipality such as the
City of New York, the plaintiff must also establish that
"the deprivation of the plaintiffs rights under federal
law is caused by a governmental custom, policy, or usage of
the municipality." Jones v. Town of East Haven,
691 F.3d 72, 80 (2d Cir. 2012). "A policy or custom may
be established by any of the following: (1) a formal policy
officially endorsed by the municipality; (2) actions or
decisions made by municipal officials with decision-making
authority; (3) a practice so persistent and widespread that
it constitutes a custom through which constructive notice is
imposed upon policymakers; or (4) a failure by policymakers
to properly train or supervise their subordinates, such that
the policymakers exercised 'deliberate indifference'
to the rights of the plaintiff." Moran v. Cty. of
Suffolk, No. 1 l-CV-3704 (PKC) (GRB), 2015 WL 1321685.
at *9 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 24, 2015). The purpose of this
requirement is to ensure that "a municipality is held
liable only for those deprivations resulting from the
decisions of its duly constituted legislative body or of
those officials whose acts may fairly be said to be those of
the municipality." Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Bryan
Cty., Okl v. Brown.. 520 U.S. 397, 403-04 (1997).
Cheatham has failed to plead this requirement in any of its
plaintiff may establish municipal liability under § 1983
by pleading that a "formal policy officially endorsed by
the municipality" caused the constitutional violations
he identifies. Moran, 2015 WL 1321685, at *9.
Cheatham does not identify a formal policy related to the
conditions of his confinement; rather, he cites text from the
Supreme Court's decision in Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825 (1994). (Am. Compl. at 4.) The standard
articulated in Farmer, calling for inmates to
"receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical
care" is not a formal policy of the City of New York.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-33. Even if it were, the
unsanitary and unhealthy conditions of confinement Cheatham
alleges, far from being caused by the policy he quotes, would
have occurred in violation of that policy. Cheatham
therefore fails to state a § 1983 claim against the City
on the basis of a formal policy.
Actions or Decisions by Municipal Officials with